SYDNEY, AAP – Investors found few gifts on the Australian market at the start of Christmas week as the prospect of reintroducing virus restrictions weighed on energy and bank shares.

Energy shares and oil prices lost about three per cent on Monday as pressure mounts on European countries and the US to curb rising infection figures from the coronavirus Omicron strain.

Beach Energy and Santos each lost a little more than four per cent.

Heavyweight bank shares were a major reason for the market closing lower despite most categories ending the day higher.

ANZ and NAB each lost a little more than one per cent. The Commonwealth and Westpac were little changed.

Healthcare shares were best. They improved 0.83 per cent and helped offset some losses.

IG Markets analyst Kyle Rodda said the economic growth outlook was weaker due to Omicron and the setback for US President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion stimulus bill.

A key senator will not support the bill, which would expand the social safety net and address climate change.

Meanwhile UK leaders are talking about virus restrictions. The Netherlands has entered lockdown.

Mr Rodda said investors were fretting the global economy might slow in a world where monetary policy was being tightened.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 11.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 7292.2 points.

The All Ordinaries closed lower by 24 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 7602.2 points.

One of the biggest losers was Magellan Financial Group. Its shares dropped almost 33 per cent to $19.70.

The company revealed its asset management arm lost a contract with UK wealth manager St James Place.

The lost contract will have a six per cent impact on group full-year revenue.

Magellan said the impact would be immaterial to group first-half earnings but this did not seem to relieve investors.

Engineering group CIMIC tried to clarify a media article about unpaid workers at a company it used to have a stake in.

CIMIC claimed it has been trying to ensure more than 2,000 people were paid since it sold its stake in BIC Contracting in the Middle East in February.

CIMIC shares were down 13.37 per cent to $15.88.

In mining, Rio Tinto named Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, as its next chair.

Mr Barton was also a global managing partner of McKinsey & Company.

He will take over from incumbent Rio chair Simon Thompson in May.

Shares were up 0.23 per cent to $98.23.

Among Rio rivals, BHP dropped by 0.72 per cent to $41.10 and Fortescue improved by 2.53 per cent to $19.46.

Not all the energy companies were doing poorly.

Viva Energy improved after forecasting higher full-year earnings.

Despite lockdowns, Viva had strong fuel sales growth across its retail and commercial divisions.

Underlying earnings are forecast to be 96 per cent higher than last year.

Shares were up 3.72 per cent to $2.23.

Meanwhile Origin Energy is buying electricity network operator WINconnect.

Origin will pay $42.4 million and gain 87,000 electricity and hot water customers and a pipeline of 36,000 unit owners.

Shares were down 0.59 per cent to $5.07.

The Australian dollar was buying 71.04 US cents at 1721 AEDT, lower from 71.64 US cents at Friday’s close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 11.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 7292.2 points on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries closed lower by 24 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 7602.2 points.

* At 1704 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down nine points, or 0.13 per cent, to 7186 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.04 US cents, from 71.64 cents on Friday

* 80.58 Japanese yen, from 81.44 yen

* 63.12 Euro cents, from 63.27 cents

* 53.72 British pence, from 53.83 pence

* 105.71 NZ cents, from 105.77 cents.